Today's Papers

Lost Verizon

USA Today leads with the paper’s latest poll showing a George W. Bush post-convention lead of 17 points over Al Gore. The Washington Post goes with Republican Party plans to spend $100 million it has been raising since March to increase voting for Bush and other GOP candidates among wavering or indifferent voters. The paper explains that Bush has successfully employed similar efforts previously as both a gubernatorial candidate and a presidential aspirant. The New York Times goes with the second day of the strike at Verizon, which was formed when Bell Atlantic acquired GTE. The Los Angeles Times leads with a classic Monday morning discretionary lead, summarizing academic research contending that since insurers and employers have made workers’ compensation insurance fraud a priority, workers’ injury-related benefits have been rolled back and the rate of success for comp claims has dropped considerably. The paper acknowledges that nobody seems to know the prior rate of fraudulent claims and hence that nobody seems to know how much of an injustice the new reduced levels of compensation represent, but the paper suggests that the trend is substantially unfair to workers. A story like this would be strengthened tremendously if it included detailed facts about workers’ comp claims filed at a particular business over a number of years, a particular business like, say, the LAT.

A big problem with the USAT poll: Its questions are based on a head-to-head Gore-Bush race, even though it’s obvious there are going to be four candidates. Remember to change the questionnaire for next time, guys.

The WP lead explains that in order to comply with federal election laws the Bush get-out-the-vote money will have to be a combination of hard and soft, and that perhaps half the funds raised will be used for “issue ads,” which while reinforcing Bush themes, will not explicitly say to vote for him (or other Republicans). It would have been useful if the paper pointed out that this mixing of hard and soft fund raising and the promiscuous use of issue ads both proved extremely problematic for the ‘96 Clinton-Gore campaign and hence are a lightning rod for mistakes and abuse in the upcoming election as well.

According to the NYT, the main issue in the Verizon strike is the ability of the workers in the new entity’s wireless division to organize. The paper explains that although the company is the largest U.S. wireless carrier, only a few dozen of the wireless employees are unionized, compared with 80 percent of the conglomerate’s local phone division. The story at one point says that a Verizon customer service representative declined to give her name because she says Verizon told the employees at her work center that they would be fired if they discussed joining the union on work premises. The paper passes over this episode rather quickly, when instead it should have investigated whether it actually happened and whether such an admonition is legal.

The LAT fronts an interview with Dick Cheney in which he says the White House has “weak leadership” and is preoccupied with politics instead of policy. Cheney tells the Times that Social Security is one of the problems that should have been resolved in the last seven years. The LAT falls down by not asking Cheney to give his resolution to the Social Security problem. And for a bonus question, the paper could have asked Cheney to name the significant policies implemented by the White House he worked in, the Ford administration.

The LAT article winds up with a description of the Bush-Cheney campaign train swing into the Midwest over the weekend, including a mention of a person’s sign saying “Thanks for Sosa,” a reference to the deal made by the Texas Rangers when Bush was a team poohbah sending Sammy Sosa to the Cubs. But the story doesn’t mention some other reactions Bush drew. The WP reports that one person yelled “George Bush sucks” at him, to which he replied, “Thank you very much.” And a woman mooned the campaign train, with the phrase “Raise Min Wage” across her backside. According to the paper, Bush spotted the woman, smiled broadly, and shouted, “Congratulations. You just got on national TV.”

It’s official–the Wall Street Journal will now publish anything Peggy Noonan writes. Today’s Nooner includes the following passage:

Twenty years ago, when I helped cover conventions for CBS Radio, I used to walk on the floor and look up at the men in the booths and wonder what they were thinking. They looked so beautiful and pensive up there in the lights in their shiny boxes with the crisp network logos. I wondered if they were thinking things like, “Democracy in action at events like this has an inevitable look of silliness, and yet there is something truly moving in the joy of that delegate over there in the elephant hat, whom I’ve interviewed and who is a librarian in Lincoln, Neb., and who, when I asked her why she does this, said with unpracticed simplicity, ‘I just love my country.’” But, God bless them, that is not what the anchors are thinking. They are thinking, and saying to each other, “Balloons are Republican sex.”